Amazon looks to help its sellers with better software tools

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Folks trying to sell you stuff on Amazon have a new resource to help them improve their businesses.

Over the past six months, Amazon has brought together makers of software for sellers in a new invite-only advisory group called the Marketplace Developer Council, according to a person familiar with the group. This council will work directly with Amazon to guide the company’s future work creating software and tools for sellers on the world’s biggest e-commerce site.

As part of the group’s efforts, Amazon is planning to create a new portal of third-party seller tools that manage listings, inventory and orders, helping match merchants with trusted and vetted vendors, the person said. Small and medium-sized sellers turn to these types of services to help them more easily change the prices on their listings and show up higher in Amazon searches.

“I think they’re finally recognizing that all sellers aren’t created equal and there are different levels of sophistication that sellers need tools for,” the person said about Amazon.

Amazon declined to comment for this story. However, the council’s logo has already cropped up online, and two seller-tools companies, Zentail and A2X, in recent weeks announced on their sites that they’re part of the council.

For shoppers, Amazon’s closer work with providers of seller tools could eventually make for a better purchasing experience. The creation of the council also highlights Amazon’s focus on building up its marketplace, where over 2 million independent merchants worldwide use Amazon’s site to offer up hundreds of millions of goods. The group’s work may become even more vital now, since 2017 was the first year in which third-party merchants accounted for more than half of all sales on Amazon. The company’s direct sales accounted for the rest.

On Thursday, Amazon emphasized the importance of the marketplace by releasing its first-ever Small Business Impact Report, which mentioned that more than 1 million of Amazon’s independent sellers are in the US. The company has also built up other support services for sellers, including a brand registry to combat counterfeits.

The council may become a boon for companies that make tools for sellers, giving them a stamp of approval from Amazon they can use to bring on new customers. Plus, Amazon’s decision to collaborate with them could mean that the e-commerce giant isn’t interested in creating rival seller tools to compete against them.

Due to Amazon’s typical secrecy, invited companies are allowed to say they are part of the new group but are barred from saying much about what it’s working on, the person said.

There’s no specific time frame on when, or if, the new seller portal will become available, since details about it are still being hammered out, the person said. Amazon already has a similar portal called the “solution provider network” that offers translation, tax, and compliance services for merchants looking to sell internationally.

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